Modern Pyramids and Ancient Squares

Letter From Paris

We were driving past the Pavilion de Flore, which punctuates the southwestern extremity of the Louvre's Grande Galerie, when my neighbor suddenly gripped my arm and exclaimed, "Mira! Estos techos! estas chimineas! Hombre! Estupendo!" (Look! Those roofs, those chimneys! Man alive! Stupendous!) Such was the reaction of the famous Spanish cartoonist, Antonio Mingote, to his first exposure to the Louvre, some twenty years or more ago.

For me this was both an exciting and sobering experience. Having lived for so many years in Paris, I had grown used to the tall chimneys and rooftops of the Louvre and had ended up taking them for granted. It had taken this visiting Spaniard to make me realize just how stupendous the Louvre's tall roofs, domed pavilions, and soaring chimneys really were.

In 1852, when Napoleon III decided to complete what his more illustrious uncle had already begun^by clearing three streets of run-down houses in order to connect the northern wing of the Tuileries Palace to the Louvre along the handsomely arcaded Rue de Rivoli—he entrusted this task of palatial enlargement to two conservative architects, Lodovico Visconti and Hector Lefuel, who today are virtually forgotten. Neither being a genius nor burning to be furiously "original," they prudently decided that the Louvre could best be aggrandized by the construction of two monumental, tall-roofed wings, complete with...

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